Coordination : Ariane Hudelet
UMR LARCA (Université Paris Cité / CNRS) Emergence IDEX Project
Scientific committee: Ariane Hudelet, Emmanuelle Delanoë-Brun,
Dennis Tredy, Pierre-Olivier Toulza, Anne Crémieux
NB: If you are interested in the project, you can participate in different ways (light contribution to the database / contribution to the collective reflection / article or video essay for final publication)
In this project we will observe and analyze the effects of the Covid pandemic on the serial form, in terms of production, representation, and reception.
Like all cultural products, series have been affected by the health crisis: as of March 2020, some shootings have been stopped or delayed (such as The Witcher or Lord of the Rings), and some scripts have had to be modified to remove scenes of intimacy or close combat (Goldberg and Rose). While the lockdown periods favored the consumption of TV series that was sometimes considered as a coping mechanism for isolated audiences, writers were forced to work via video conference, losing the direct interaction of the writers’ room (Abramovitch and Goldberg). Outside of the lockdown periods, film crews also had to adapt to incorporate the constraints of masks and social distancing (Welk). The broadcast schedules of terrestrial and cable channels, as well as streaming sites, have been disrupted.
Through a zoom meeting and a symposium in Paris, we will elaborate a collective publication on the subject (journal issue) to map out and analyze the impact of Covid 19 on the content and form of TV series: not only in terms of screenplay, but also as relates to blocking and mise-en-scène, or to the presence of digital communication technologies within the framework and the plot.
Some works have very quickly integrated the crisis into their scenario, like the medical series Grey’s Anatomy or The Good Doctor or Hippocrate. Audiences recognize phenomena that have affected caregivers beyond national boundaries (stress, lack of resources, shortage of masks and tests, glorification or stigmatization of caregivers). Sitcoms were also quick to depict the social, professional or family consequences of lockdowns, such as the aggressiveness of anti-mask customers in Superstore. In France, the pandemic becomes a backdrop in Un Si Grand Soleil, while Plus Belle la Vie chooses not to integrate it into its scripts. The pandemic sometimes appears as a major element of the plot in the seasons that were shot once production resumed (The Good Fight S5, The Morning Show S2, En Thérapie S2, This is Us S5).
We will focus on the ways serial narratives manage to fictionalize and visualize a crisis which, for the most part, has remained associated with fragmentary or partial images: representations of the virus are often reduced to abstract curves for instance, and we notice a certain lack of “iconic” images, particularly in audiovisual media, of ICU, of the sick or the dead (Lewis, Ostherr). We will also be interested in the evolution of the representation of the pandemic in relation to pre-2020 works that dealt with similar themes when they were still part of a post-apocalyptic or science fiction imaginary (24, La Valla, Epidemic, Cordon, Utopia).
Finally, it will be important to question the type of representation allowed by the specific form of the TV series, that sets it apart from cinema, social media, video games or literature. In particular, we will question the dimension of uncertainty that underlies the experience of series: serial audiences are indeed confronted with complex narratives, interwoven plots whose appeal lies as much in their familiarity as in their unexpected and destabilizing dimension. Series are by nature unstable objects, whose production is likely to be interrupted before the end because of financial constraints, or on the contrary to reappear years after having stopped (like In Treatment, which HBO rebooted notably as an attempt to resume production in a pandemic context). The series is thus fundamentally linked to the experience of uncertainty (Ellis), a concept that is also at the heart of our experience of the pandemic.
Contributions on series from around the world, beyond the European and North American areas, are welcome.
- 7 October 2022: the first meeting (on zoom) will be the occasion to meet and to mark out the work together – we will notably discuss the collaborative database that will give us an idea of the types of representation of the Covid 19 on screen. We will also discuss the structure of the final publication.
- 6 January 2023: the (hybrid) symposium in Paris will allow us to invite international colleagues working on these issues, as well as TV professionals. A roundtable will also allow contributors to briefly present the argument of their article or video essay.
- Fall 2023: submission of articles/video essays.
Terms of participation
- You are interested in the project and you wish to participate in the zoom meeting and in the elaboration of the database but you do not wish to propose a written article or video essay: just send a biographical note and declare your interest.
- You wish to participate in the whole process and propose a contribution in the form of an article or a video essay – please include an abstract (3000 characters max) and a biographical note.
Please send your proposals by email
- Abrahamovitch, Seth, and Lesley Goldberg. “How TV’s Writers Rooms Keep Working Amid a Virus Crisis”, Hollywood Reporter, March 19, 2020. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/how-tvs-writers-rooms-keep-working-a-virus-crisis-1285259
- Boursier, Valentina, Alessandro Musetti, Francesca Gioia, Maeva Flayelle, Joël Billieux and Adriano Schimmenti. “Is Watching TV Series an Adaptive Coping Strategy During the Covid-19 Pandemic? Insights From an Italian Community Sample”, Frontiers in Psychiatry vol. 21, April 21, 2021.
- Ellis, John. Seeing Things: Television in the Age of Uncertainty. London: I.B. Tauris, 2000.
- Goldberg, Jeffrey, and Lacey Rose. “TV Writers Wrestle With How (and When) to Work Covid-19 Into Series”, Hollywood Reporter May 5, 2020.
- Johnson, Derek, ed. From Networks to Netflix. A Guide to Changing Channels. New York: Routledge, 2018.
- Lewis, Helen. “Where Are the Iconic Covid-19 Images? The Scarcity of Memorable Pandemic Photographs Reveals Something About this Crisis”, The Atlantic February 24, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/02/where-are-iconic-images-covid-19-pandemic/618036/
- Marya, Radhika. “The Coronavirus Pandemic is Changing Broadcast and Streaming TV as We Kow It”, Fortune 30 March 2020.
- Ostherr, Kirsten. “How Do We See Covid 19? Visual Iconographies of Racial Contagion”, American Literature 92.4, Décembre 2020.
- Soloski, Alexis. “How the Pandemic is Coming to Prime Time (or Not)”, New York Times February 4, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/04/arts/television/tv-coronavirus-pandemic.html
- Welk, Brian. “Hollywood Unions Release COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Film, TV Production”, thewrap.com June 12, 2020. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/how-tvs-writers-rooms-keep-working-a-virus-crisis-1285259
- Yao, Richard. “The End of TV Monoculture as We Know It”, Medium May 23, 2019. https://medium.com/ipg-media-lab/the-end-of-tv-monoculture-as-we-know-it-de9da18949dc
- 24, Fox, 2001-2010 / 2014.
- Cordon, VTM, 2014-2016.
- En Thérapie, Arte, 2021-.
- Epidémie, TVA, 2020.
- Good Doctor, KBS2, 2013.
- Good Doctor (The), ABC, 2017-.
- Good Fight (The), CBS All Access, 2017-
- Good Place (The), NBC, 2016-2020.
- Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 2005-.
- Hippocrate, Canal +, 2018-.
- In Treatment, HBO 2008-2010 / 2021-.
- La Valla, Antena 3, 2020-.
- Lord of the Rings. Amazon Prime, 2021-.
- Morning Show (The), Apple TV +, 2019-
- Mucize Doktor, 2019.
- Plus Belle la vie, France 3, 2004-.
- Social Distance, Netflix, 2020.
- Superstore, NBC, 2015-2021.
- This is Us, NBC, 2016-2022.
- Un Si Grand Soleil, France 2, 2018-.
- Utopia, Channel 4, 2013-2014.
- Witcher (The), Netflix, 2019-.